How does it feel for you? The emotional impact and specific challenges of mental health interpreting

Sharon Doherty , Anna Macintyre, Tara Wyne

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Approximately 42 million people worldwide are displaced due to persecution, war or natural disaster (UNHCR, 2008). Many seek refuge in countries far from their own. Where host countries supply refugee mental health services, these services rely heavily on the work of interpreters. Despite interpreters being exposed to significant client distress, little attention has been paid to the impact of mental health interpreting on the well‐being of interpreters themselves. This study set out to build on limited previous work in this area.A total of 157 interpreters contracted by Glasgow Translating and Interpreting Service, UK, were surveyed in April 2007. Responses were analysed using grounded theory analyses. Of the 18 interpreters who responded, 56% reported having been emotionally affected by mental health interpreting, 67% reported that they sometimes found it hard to put clients out of their minds and 33% reported that interpreting for clients with mental health difficulties had had an impact on their personal life. Respondents experienced a range of emotions in relation to their work, including anger, sadness, hopelessness and powerlessness, and 28% reported sometimes having difficulty moving onto their next job due to distress associated with a previous client. These findings are discussed in relation to good practice guidelines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31- 44
Number of pages14
JournalMental Health Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • mental health interpreting
  • interpreter distress
  • asylum seeker mental health
  • refugee mental health

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